Monday, May 19, 2008

Will History Repeat Itself?

Just before the start of the playoffs this year, Sports Illustrated wrote a small column about a potentially historic finals matchup: Lakers vs. Celtics. The 1980s were dominated by the Lakers and the Celtics. In that decade, the Lakers & Celtics combined for 8 of the 10 championships (Lakers-5 Celtics-3)! In 1984, '85, & '87 the Lakers & Celtics squared off in the Finals. The Celtics won in '84 in a classic 7-game series and the Lakers took the next two (4-2 in both). Those were the days when the NBA poured in the ratings. Everyone wanted to be apart of Magic vs. Bird, and see what Kareem, McHale, Parish, & Worthy would do. The 80s were the NBA at its finest. And at its pinnacle, it was all about Boston and Los Angeles.

When the 90s came around, both teams lost their glory. One man stepped into the spotlight. That man, was Michael Jordan. After leading the Bulls' dynasty to 6 NBA titles, Jordan stepped down and the Lakers re-emerged as an NBA powerhouse once again. Kobe and Shaq led L.A. to 3 NBA titles in as many years, leaving the Lakers mark of dominance on the league once again. But after Kobe and Shaq split up the Lakers dynasty became no more.

As for the Celtics, the 90s seemed to be a time of tragedy and disappointment. The franchise's only glimmer came in 2002, when Paul Pierce was able to lead them to the Conference Finals, which they wound up losing 4-2 to the Nets. This proved to be the closest moment to glory the Celtics would feel in 19 years. They hit rock bottom in 2006-07, losing a franchise record 18 games in a row and finishing the season with the NBA's second worst record, at 24-58.

After missing the #1 Lottery Pick, Celtics fans thought it couldn't get any worse. It turned out, they were right. Enter the Big 3. The Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to go along with the talented Paul Pierce, and immediately became a favorite for success in the East. The 3 blended together right from the start and carried it through all season. The Celtics entered the playoffs with the NBA's best record at 66-16 (a 42 win turnaround from last season), and were the favorites to win it all.

On the other side of the spectrum, in the Western Conference, the Lakers made a similar turnaround. Before the season, Kobe Bryant was demanding to be traded and the Lakers found themselves headed for a troubled year. When the Lakers kept Kobe, the team played surprisingly well. After the tough loss of Andrew Bynum to injury, Los Angeles knew they needed to make a move in order to have a chance to contend in the highly competitive Western Conference. Enter Pau Gasol. The trade for Gasol launched the Lakers immediately to the top of the Western Conference. Since the trade, Kobe and the Lakers are 35-11, and anxiously awaiting their Western Conference Finals matchup versus the Spurs.

So here we are. Two series to go. The Lakers and the Celtics both have one more obstacle to overcome. For the Lakers, its the two-time, defending champion Spurs. For the Celtics, a Detroit Pistons team that has been to 6 straight Eastern Conference Finals. Both opponents have been the powerhouses of their respective conferences in recent years. But can history repeat itself and welcome the powerhouses of the 80s to re-emerge as the dominant teams of the present? Only two teams stand in the way. Lakers-Celtics would be an NBA lover's dream, as Sports Illustrated so eloquently put it a few weeks ago. Well, that dream is 8-14 games away from becoming a reality. A Lakers-Celtics rematch could turn around the sluggish NBA ratings of recent years. Most believe it could do a lot for the NBA. So it is all in the hands of Kobe Bryant and the Big 3. The Lakers seem poised for a trip to the Finals, however, the Celtics have yet to win a game on the road. Fortunately for them, as the #1 seed, they don't have to. Although, in order to take down Detroit, it might be necessary for them to do so.

At this point, as a fan, I want Lakers-Celtics. The Spurs and the Pistons are probably the two most boring teams in the NBA. They've held the crowns of their respective Conferences for the last few years and it is time for a change. If history were to repeat itself, I think it would make for an exciting series. It would be interesting to see how the NBA's #1 team from the East faired up against the #1 seed in the much more competitive West. Bryant, Odom, & Gasol vs. Pierce, Allen, & Garnett could be this generations' Magic, Worthy, & Kareem vs. Bird, McHale, & Parish. One of the NBA's greatest rivalries back in action. Wouldn't that be something else? While I didn't get the exciting Hornets-Cavs series I wanted, a modern, historic clash between the NBA's two greatest franchises is a good compromise in my eyes. Well just have to watch and see if it happens.

Image taken from Google Images

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